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Political split develops as Trump visits train derailment site in East Palestine

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Posted at 8:50 PM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-23 07:30:51-05

Former President Donald Trump spent Wednesday in East Palestine, Ohio, the site of the Feb. 3 train derailment, chemical spill and fire.

The former president went on a tour of the area's Little Beaver Creek with the Mayor of East Palestine who has been critical of the Biden Administration’s handling of the aftermath of the disaster.

Republican Senator JD Vance of Ohio was also there. Along North Market Street, hundreds waited in the rain for a glimpse of Trump as he made his way to the East Palestine Fire Department where he donated water and cleaning supplies.

“I sincerely hope that when your representatives and all of the politicians get here including Biden, (when) they get back from touring Ukraine, that he’s got some money left over,” Trump said criticizing the country’s spending in support of the war in Ukraine.

In town, residents like Lindsay Johnson noted the political split that has developed over the last week or two.

“I think it didn’t have to be, but we’re really not getting any help from the administration that’s in power right now," she said.

Yes, a lot of that has to do with the perception of how the Biden Administration is handling the situation. That’s in part what brought Trump to town. The visit is something that resonates with voters like Darla McElroy.

“All politics aside, he’s here and nobody else has shown up yet,” she said.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg will be visiting East Palestine Thursday. He said this week he wanted to wait until a time when he wasn’t a distraction from the work taking place.

He said there are two types of people who show up at disasters, “people who are there because they have a specific job to do and are there to get something done and people who are there to look good and have their picture taken,” Buttigieg said.

“When I go it will be about action on rail safety,” he said.

Columbiana County is a solid Republican locality where Donald Trump got 71% of the vote in 2020.

Ohio's Governor Mike DeWine got 79% of the vote last year. So, this visit is not so much about winning over new voters, but about energizing that base that lives there, and in similar counties across the state, with just over a year to go until the March 19, 2024, Ohio Republican presidential primary.

Around town, you needn’t look hard to find Trump 2024 signs along with voters like Kathy who drove a distance in hopes of seeing the man who she says has her vote no matter who gets in.

Brian Heestand came from the nearby town of Salem to see the former president but he said he would also like to see the current one and see each put East Palestine first.

“I think together is how we’re always going to get things done and I do believe that to be true,” he said.

This story was originally published by John Kosich of Scripps News Cleveland.